Plan­ners OK Maazels’ tourist plan

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - BY MATT WING­FIELD AND ROGER PIANTADOSI Rap­pa­han­nock News staff

The Rap­pa­han­nock County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion rec­om­mended ap­proval of four spe­cial-use per­mits last week for tourist homes in and around Lorin and Di­etlinde Maazel’s more than 550-acre Castle­ton Farms es­tate – pri­mar­ily for rentals dur­ing the months when the homes are not be­ing used to house many of the young mu­si­cians and singers who come to per­form and study at the Maazels’ an­nual sum­mer Castle­ton Fes­ti­val.

Rep­re­sented at the com­mis­sion’s reg­u­lar meet­ing last Wed­nes­day (Oct. 17) by at­tor­ney Doug Baum­gard­ner, the Maazels had ap­plied for per­mits for four sep­a­rate prop­er­ties they own. Baum­gard­ner de­scribed the homes as “con­cepts like a beach house,” not­ing that each prop­erty could house six to 10 peo­ple, and that the Maazels also

owned the sur­round­ing prop­er­ties, which would limit the im­pact on neigh­bors.

(The tourist homes are part of a re­struc­tur­ing of Castle­ton Farms, ac­cord­ing to Di­etlinde Maazel, reached by email ear­lier this week, as well as part of an ef­fort by the Maazels and the Chateauvil­le Foun­da­tion to en­sure the fis­cal fu­ture of the Castle­ton Fes­ti­val, whose or­ga­niz­ers are now plan­ning a fifth sea­son of opera and clas­si­cal mu­sic per­for­mances for next June and July. Maazel had been con­tacted to com­ment on re­ports that some of the farm’s full-time, year-round staff were be­ing let go. “We re­spect our staff and their pri­vacy, and as such our re­la­tion­ship with Farm staff is confidenti­al,” she wrote, not­ing that Castle­ton’s re­struc­tur­ing had in­deed led to re­cent “changes of full-time po­si­tions. These changes were mu­tu­ally agreed to and we are still fi­nal­iz­ing the de­tails . . . Be­cause of our long re­la­tion­ship with some of the staff mem­bers, this has been a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion.”)

Only one Castle­ton res­i­dent spoke at the plan­ning com­mis­sion’s hear­ing on the tourist home per­mits, say­ing he wasn’t op­posed to the per­mits but won­dered whether guests would com­plain about the noises that nat­u­rally ac­com­pany life in a ru­ral community such as Rap­pa­han­nock.

“This isn’t a Mar­riott in New York City,” said Steven Hens­ley. “There’s go­ing to be trac­tors, cows, the sounds of hunt­ing and shoot­ing . . . how is the ex­ist­ing life here go­ing to mesh with tourist homes?”

County Ad­min­is­tra­tor John McCarthy an­swered Hens­ley’s ques­tion by point­ing out that week­end guests in Rap­pa­han­nock are never the ones who file com­plaints about the noises.

“Most of those type of com­plaints come from new ar­rivals who might not have ini­tially re­al­ized that these sort of things hap­pen nat­u­rally in the coun­try. The peo­ple who va­ca­tion here come here specif­i­cally for that kind of ex­pe­ri­ence.”

“The county is the net gainer in all this,” said Alvin F. Henry, Jr., the com­mis­sion’s Hamp­ton dis­trict rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

“I think it’s a very good use of an ex­ist­ing prop­erty,” said Pied­mont dis­trict com­mis­sioner Gary Set­tle.

The com­mis­sion unan­i­mously ap­proved the four per­mits; the mat­ter was passed on to the Board of Zon­ing Ap­peals (BZA), which was to meet Wed­nes­day night (Oct. 24).

The last per­mit to come be­fore the com­mis­sion was for the Auchter Tourist Home. Own­ers Thorne and Bar­bara Auchter are seek­ing a spe­cialuse per­mit to turn their four-bed­room house on 21 acres into a tourist home for up to 12 guests. Tues­day night (Oct. 16), the com­mis­sion re­ceived a sin­gle let­ter of dis­ap­proval from neigh­bor Carolyn Beahm, who said she was wor­ried the lights and sounds from the pro­posed tourist home would dis­turb the area’s usual peace and quiet.

Henry said he be­lieved hav­ing 12 peo­ple in the home at once was “kind of push­ing it,” and asked the Auchters if they in­tended to be present while the house was be­ing rented.

Thorne Auchter said they in­tended to leave the home when guests were over, and stay else­where, re­gard­less of the num­ber of ren­ters. “It’s still our home though,” he said. “We’re not go­ing to let peo­ple run ram­pant.”

Fur­ther­more, Auchter said there wouldn’t be any mix­ing of groups of ren­ters; if a group of four rented the house, they wouldn’t rent the house out again un­til those ren­ters had left.

Ron Fra­zier, the com­mis­sion’s board of su­per­vi­sors’ rep­re­sen­ta­tive, also ques­tioned the large num­ber of guests, sug­gest­ing that a re­view pe­riod might be nec­es­sary. BZA rep­re­sen­ta­tive Alex Sharp rec­om­mended a five-year re­view pe­riod be at­tached to the com­mis­sion’s ap­proval.

“We have more than 12 peo­ple over rou­tinely,” said Auchter. “We’ve had par­ties of more than that over be­fore, and rent­ing out to a full 12 peo­ple would be un­usual.”

The com­mis­sion ul­ti­mately ap­proved the spe­cial-use per­mit with a 5- 0 vote, af­ter adding a five-year re­view stip­u­la­tion. The mat­ter was also to be heard by the BZA Wed­nes­day night.

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